(Moving old blog posts from my previous location to here on Blogspot....here is one from early 2009)
February 24 2009
"There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening, that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost". -Martha Graham
Who a better person to quote such words, as dance legend Martha Graham? Her ideas and concepts in contemporary dance choreography were innovative for it's time, and set the stage for contemporary dance. Her concepts were fresh, incorporating a raw sense of emotion not often seen before that time. Even the musical scores composed for her suites were very different from the music of the time.....major and minor chords combined, intricate rythym, tapestries of sound that either hit you like a shock, or brought raw emotion to the surface. Dancers of the Martha Graham Dance Company, became masters of bringing a "life force" to dance, translated through action.
Being a martial artist, I feel that the "art" of the fighting systems not only resides in the correctness of movement or even the committment to movement.....the art, I believe, resides in the "vitality" (as Martha puts it) of intent, emotion, and expression. This expression can be evident in any martial art, no matter how rough or it may look.
Don't get me wrong....Martial "art" is simply not the sole idea of looking pretty while you do a Kata. Nor is it how high you jump, how heavy a sword you wield, how many boards you break, how many tournaments you win. Granted, having a few elements of strength and poise are indeed contributing factors to physical prowess and competitive edge….but in the end if you don’t have “intent, emotion, expression….and the ability to manifest these elements without conscious thought”….it won’t be a true art....it would only be physical skill and in some cases, mere tricks.
In my Taiji classes, my students often hear me say “Feel for it…..”, or I’ll compare a motion to an already familiar experience. “Push the beach ball under water” I might say, and their eyes light up with “Oh! Okay!”. This is because I know that not all my words will make sense during a class, and if a student does indeed make the connection between a familiar experience and a newfangled martial arts movement, it will be easier for them to bring forth the sense of intent needed for a movement. When it all comes together and a student can translate intent through action and freely express themselves through movement, then that , is Martial Art.